Behind Enemy Lines (2001)
Director: John Moore Starring: Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, Gabriel Macht, Vladimir Mashkov, Olek Krupa, Joaquim de Almeida
Certificate: 15 Running Time: 101 Minutes
Tagline: “In War There Are Some Lines You Should Never Cross”
Better known these days for his comedic tomfoolery with other ‘frat pack’ alumni, Owen Wilson is less well known as an action star, and yet here he is in the leading role of one such film, and with nary a humorous moment to be found! Pretty good he is too in this Bosnian War-set thriller, based unofficially on the experiences of a real-life American pilot. Lt. Chris Burnett (Wilson) is stationed on an aircraft carrier in the Adriatic Sea and has grown bored and frustrated with his career in the US Air Force and is preparing to leave. However, Burnett, along with Stackhouse, his buddy and the pilot to Wilson’s navigator, are given a reconnaissance mission on the eve of their ship’s departure. Briefly straying off-mission, they discover some far from friendly activity in a supposed demilitarised zone, including evidence of war atrocities. Obviously keen to keep their secret, the Bosnian-Serb army shoots them down.
|Looks like someone could use a white jacket!|
After an exhilarating, edge-of-the-seat, trying-to-avoid-surface-to-air missiles sequence, their F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (apparently) fighter is finally downed over occupied territory. Now stranded… well, behind enemy lines, it’s up to Burnett to stay alive and evade capture by the enemy long enough to make it to safety. Back on the carrier, a frustrated Admiral Reigart (Hackman) tries to find a way around the red tape preventing him from sending a rescue party after Burnett, who is being relentlessly persued by pretty much the whole Bosnian-Serb army, including a very dedicated and skilled sniper (Mashkov). Having to remain undetected in both rural and urban areas, Burnett, for the first time in his career, has to remember and make use of his military training, as well as hope for a bit of luck!
|Burnett tries to outrun trip-wire explosives…|
Granted, there’s not a hugely intricate, interweaving plot, but this is a solid and exciting action film, albeit fairly typical Hollywood fare. Gene Hackman is in familiar territory but does well with his limited screen time. Owen Wilson, however, proves surprisingly proficient in his portrayal of the initially panic-stricken, deer-in-the-headlights, Burnett, clearly out of his comfort zone. Also very noteworthy is Vladimir Mashkov as chilling Serb sniper, Sasha, hell-bent on taking his target out. Despite being filmed in Slovakia and featuring no Serb actors in the cast (none wanted anything to do with the production, apparently), John Moore does a good job of recreating the war-torn landscape of civil-war era Bosnia, complete with armies, Bosniak Guerillas, towns in ruins, and roadside wreckage, each separated by stretches of desolate countryside. Also keenly felt is the sense of isolation felt by Burnett as he sporadically manages to make contact with Reigart inbetween dodging Bosnian-Serb bullets and grenades, and hiding under corpses.
Overall, Behind Enemy Lines isn’t perfect – it’s very much a Hollywood film, complete with a suitably over-the-top, unrealistic ending (although, surprisingly, no love interest!), but it’s more about the journey than the destination, right? And it’s a solidly entertaining journey throughout.